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15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 15, 2012 (Amos 7:12-15; Ephesians 1:3-14; Mark 6:7-13) The prophet

Amos arises in mid eighth century Israel to denounce the northern kingdom of Israel for the social injustice being perpetrated against the poor of the land. The period was economically well off for the wealthy. Most societies are like that. The wealthy always do well. Its the poor who always suffer. This was one of those times in Israel. Amos was called from his farming tasks (Amos says he was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores) to pronounce judgment against Israel and such a judgment it was! He said not only that their temple would be destroyed but so would their leaders and the entire royal family and that their citizens would be marched into captivity. His opponents do not want to hear his warning: Off with you, visionary, flee to the land of Judah! He had come from Judah (the southern kingdom) but the Lord directed him to prophesy in the northern kingdom (Israel) and thats what he did. Prophets are never welcomed because their words cut all with a two-edged sword. So Israels reaction, while disappointing, can hardly be said to be surprising. In the context of Marks Gospel, Sundays passage follows immediately after Jesus had said A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house. That would have more clearly linked the Gospel and Amos. Jesus directs the Twelve to go out in pairs, equipped with his authority over unclean spirits. It raises the intriguing question of who went with whom? Would they have split up the brothers James and John (the Sons of thunder as Jesus called them)? Of course, well never know the answer. Like Old Testament prophets they entered places unexpectedly and were either welcomed or rejected. If rejected then they cast the dust from their feet (or from their sandals) as a sign of utter rejection of those who first reject them. This is because they are not rejecting the Twelve, but their announcement of the Kingdom. If they ignore this announcement then they ignore Jesus, who had sent them. Luke says not to carry any sandals but is unclear whether he means they should go barefoot (Lk.10:4). Matthew says dont take a second pair (Mt.10:10). Luke expands the mission to seventy two disciples (Lk. 10:1-7) and Matthew aligns with Mark in making this a journey of the Twelve (Mt.10:5-15). It remains a curious incident because of its unusual nature. They are still learning what he means by the Kingdom, and they are still asking lots of questions about the identity of Jesus, as they will continue to do to the very end. On the surface they seem illequipped at this point of the Gospel.

On the other hand who is ever equipped for this missionary journey? We are all, laity and clergy alike, supposed to be involved in this missionary activity of proclaiming the kingdom by the lives we live and the faith we share. From the examples of Amos and of the Twelve it is pretty clear that what we might think prepared means, is not necessarily what the Lord has in mind. There is no necessary application to those who make travel plans during the summer holidays, but there is certainly sage advice. Packing simply, and leaving creature comforts behind, has the possibility, at least, of reminding us of the missionary task we share, whether preparing for vacation or anything else. That leads to the idea of living simply, and once we do that were onto something.

Fr. Lawrence Hummer